April Diary

Sun April 2


Australian Chamber Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 2:30 pm

That’s mainly what Richard Tognetti and his cohorts are offering: three of the violin concertos.  As far as I can work out, the man himself is soloist in the E Major No. 2, the one that starts with three chords and was later transposed by Bach for harpsichord soloist. Then, I think Tognetti will collaborate with Helena Rathbone in the D minor Double Concerto, forever associated in my memory with Oistrakh father and son – a performance that defies improvement.   Adding Satu Vanska to the mix, the Three Violin Concerto emerges, a reconstruction of the Three Harpsichords Concerto  BWV 1064.  And Tognetti offers some arrangements – the rapid-fire Preludio from the E Major Violin Partita and the E flat Cello Suite’s Sarabande.  Putting some Classical-era flesh into the stew are two Haydn symphonies  –  The Philosopher No. 22 and the G Major No. 27, both written about a decade-and-a-bit after Bach’s death; presumably inserted here on the principle that you can have a bit too much Bach.

This program will be repeated on Monday April 3 at 7:30 pm.


Friday April 7


Australian National Academy of Music

South Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

This musician is principal with the Berlin Philharmonic, so he’d be expert in knowing what his instrument can do beyond Bottesini show-pieces and the Mahler Symphony No. 1 slow movement.  He begins with Mozart’s marvellous flight of fancy, the Serenata Notturna with a bass forming part of the concertino.  The evening concludes with Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite, which has a prominent bass role in the 7th movement, Vivo.  In the centre comes Francaix’s Mozart new-look, a 1981 bagatelle for bass and wind instruments based on the Don Giovanni serenade, Deh vieni alla finestra.  Then McDonald centres the solid four-movement Divertimento concertante by Nino Rota.  As well, he outlines some tangos arranged by bassist Peter Grans called Memories from the City of Turku which, in the version I’ve seen, involves only a quartet of basses.


Sunday April 9


Team of Pianists

Rippon Lea at 6:30 pm

Beginning its yearly series at the National Trust mansion in Elsternwick, the Team hosts a vocal quartet  –  soprano Cleo Lee-McGowan, mezzo Shakira Dugan, tenor Michael Petruccelli, bass Daniel Carison – in the Brahms Neue Liebeslieder Walzer which I haven’t heard live for many years.   In fact, I can’t recall the singers from the last time but I’m pretty sure that TOP musicians were involved at that recital in the unusual surrounds of 101 Collins Street’s foyer/atrium.  The piano four-hands accompaniment on this night will be provided by senior partners Max Cooke and Darryl Coote.  One of the Team’s products, Kevin Suherman, will play some piano solos: the first two Chopin Scherzi, Rachmaninov’s arrangements of Kreisler’s Liebeslied and Liebesfreud, and Carl Vine’s Five Bagatelles of 1994, the year of Suherman’s birth.  Cooke and Coote are also playing Debussy’s Petite Suite in its original four-hands version.


Wednesday April 12


Elizabeth Murdoch Hall

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

Appearing here in the MRC’s Great Performers series, the Australian soprano is working in collaboration with UK pianist/conductor/repetiteur Richard Hetherington.  She starts out well enough with three Schubert lieder (Gretchen am Spinnrade, Du bist die Ruh, An die Musik), followed by a bit of Richard Strauss in Morgen!   But then the operatic temptation proves too much.   She has programmed Bellini’s Ah, non giunge (La Sonnambula), the Mad Scene from that same composer’s Hamlet, Donizetti’s O luce di quest’ anima (Linda di Chamounix),  Bernstein’s Glitter and Be Gay (Candide),  Lehar’s Meine Lippen sie kussen (Giuditta). Victor Herbert’s Art is calling for me (The Enchantress), Kern’s All the Things You Are (Very Warm for May), and a stand-alone from Flanders and Swann: A word on my ear.  It’s rather like the sort of program that Sutherland used to give: a potpourri  with thrilling moments, although I never warmed to arias with piano accompaniment.  What do I know? This will probably be a house-full night.


Friday 14 April


Melbourne Bach Choir and Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 3 pm

Last year about this time, the Bach-centric organization presented a fine interpretation of the St. Matthew Passion.  So why not essay another main pillar of the Easter season in the composer’s liturgical chain?   Again, conductor Rick Prakhoff has acquired the services of Andrew Goodwin as his Evangelist – a standout artist in this genre.  Warwick Fyfe resumes the Christus role.  Lorina Gore returns for the soprano arias; Henry Choo takes on the tenor contributions once more; Jeremy Kleeman is turning up for his second year with bass responsibilities.   As well, Prakhoff’s choir is a formidable group, well prepared and capable of striking empathy with those intensely moving chorales that punctuate the work.  As last year, the concert is being given on Good Friday; it shouldn’t make a difference to your reception, but somehow it does.  I’m hoping for another red letter performance along the same lines as in March 2016.


Friday April 21


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

Here is the Big Daddy of 20th century choral works, Carl Orff’s percussive and modernist version of medieval Latin/German/Provencal poems, involving three soloists, three choirs and a massive orchestra.  The opening strophes are part of the lexicon of modern advertising, very familiar to audiences the world over.  The music is very attractive, packed with singable melodies and striking illustrative effects, although its modernity has always been a vexed question: it occupies a layer of popular barbarism some streets away from the worlds of more serious composers, and these Carmina are the only pieces by the composer that you hear these days.  Soprano soloist is Eva Kong, the much-tested tenor is John Longmuir, and Warwick Fyfe sings the baritone part.  All are artists with Opera Australia. Yu Long from the China Philharmonic, Shanghai Symphony and Guangzhou Symphony Orchestras conducts and the MSO Chorus is assisted by the National Boys Choir.  As a filler, the MSO will play Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2, beginning with a magical Daybreak scene and ending in one of music’s most erotically suggestive General Dances.

This program will be repeated on Saturday April 22 at 8 pm and on Monday April 24 at 6:30 pm.


Saturday April 29


Ensemble Gombert

Xavier College Chapel at 5:30

To begin a rather shorter year than usual in its Xavier series, this exemplary vocal group is taking on some unusual near-contemporary works, leaving till last one of the greatest in Frank Martin’s Mass for Double Choir, last sung here in July 2016 by the Choir of Trinity College Cambridge in a perception-sharpening, elegant interpretation.  Leading up to this challenge, John O’Donnell takes his singers through American composer/conductor Steven Sametz’s in time of, an e e cummings setting in its 1997 a cappella version for that fine group Chanticleer; Sametz is the only writer on this program who is still alive.  English musician John McCabe is represented by his double-choir Motet of 1979 to verses by the Irish poet John Clarence Mangan; this musician’s compositions are rarely heard here – in fact, my main memory of him is as a pianist working through Hindemith’s Ludus Tonalis in the great days of the Port Fairy Music Festival under the late lamented Michael Easton. Welsh composer Mervyn Burtch’s Three Sonnets of John Donne sets some familiar lines in Batter my heart, Oh my blacke Soule! and Death be not proud – all in a simple SATB format.  Czech composer Antonin Tucapsky’s In honorem vitae suite of five madrigals on texts by Horace is also written for 4-part choir.


Sunday April 30


Melbourne Chamber Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 2:30 pm

Principal violist with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Christopher Moore will be the soloist here with the Telemann Concerto in G Major and a reconstruction by Wilfried Fischer of Bach’s E Major Keyboard/Violin Concerto (see above the Australian Chamber Orchestra on April 2/3).  Director William Hennessy surrounds these with a C. P. E. Bach Sinfonia in E minor, arranged for strings alone and called by the strange sobriquet Fandango, which I can’t hear in it.  Another Telemann piece, the Volker-Ouverture, is bracketed with the composer’s viola concerto; the overture-suite gives mini-pictures of the French (by means of two minuets), Turks, Swiss, Muscovites, and Portuguese before throwing the game away and ending with musical portraits of non-nationalistic types in Les boiteux (hobblers) and Les coureurs (runners).   Spreading the family joy around will be eldest son W. F. Bach’s Sinfonia in F Major which adds a pair of minuets to the normal three-movement structure.

This program will be repeated on Thursday May 4 in the Deakin Edge, Federation Square at 7:30 pm